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Hawaii hurricane, fire met with ‘hope & healing’

HONOLULU (BP) — As Hawaii braced Friday for Hurricane Lane’s impact, the state’s Baptists were poised for disaster relief ministry. Meanwhile, one Maui church sprang into action at 2 a.m. after a large brush fire, fueled by Lane’s winds, threatened its facility and forced evacuations.

Lane weakened Aug. 24 to a Category 2 hurricane, according to media reports. But the Big Island already had received 30 inches of rain in one location, with flooding in some areas. Maui and Oahu, including the capital city of Honolulu with nearly 1 million area residents, were expected to experience hurricane conditions Aug. 24 or 25.

Among the Hawaii Southern Baptist churches most threatened was Lahaina Baptist Church on Maui, where a brush fire was yards away from the church building early Friday morning. The fire was reported overnight and had burned between three and four acres by Friday morning, according to media reports. Lahaina Baptist’s building was safe as of 8 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, pastor Jay Wright told Baptist Press.

The fire forced evacuations and left about 4,000 Maui Electric customers without power, The New York Times reported. But amid the fire threat, Lahaina members had their minds on ministry.

“Things are really bad here right now,” Wright said in an email at 5:30 a.m. Hawaii time. “Massive fire started a couple hours ago fueled by brush and 45mph winds. More than 100 homes evacuated in Lahaina. Fire is across the street from our church and members are assisting Red Cross shelter at our civic center and opening homes to shelter others. We are working alongside other churches in our community to offer hope and healing.”

Later, in a Facebook Live video, Wright said the beginning of rain was “a beautiful sight.”

Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention disaster relief volunteers are on standby for hurricane response, the convention’s DR director Darrell McCain told BP. A mobile kitchen was standing by in Hilo on the Big Island along with a shower trailer. A recovery trailer on Oahu is equipped to remove downed trees from yards and help with flooding.

“Our disaster relief chaplains are standing ready to share the love of Christ with families to help them get through this crisis,” McCain said in written comments. “Please pray for us as we plan to help Hurricane Lane survivors and that we can do everything we need to with our limited resources.

“God has blessed our ministry and the islands and will continue to do so, even in a disaster response. We are here to show that God is still in control and He loves all the people of Hawaii,” McCain said.

Honolulu pastor Rick Lazor also requested prayer.

“We watched from afar at how much everybody else has suffered in the past, with large hurricanes where most of our [Southern Baptist] churches are in the South,” said Lazor, pastor of OlaNui! in Honolulu. “… We aren’t as used to this as everyone on the mainland, so pray for the people most vulnerable in our state. Pray for all of us to heed the warnings of our government officials.”

The last time a hurricane struck Hawaii was 1992, when Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 storm, caused more than $3 billion in damages.